"The customer experience is the next competitive battleground."
The premise is straightforward: In today's highly competitive financial services culture, managers need to reconsider the fine art of customer service. Not just as an internal mandate but as a competitive necessity. Because that's exactly what it is. Companies that offer best-in-class customer service not only grow faster, they grow more profitably. It all begins by considering the big picture…because in order to improve individual services, you have to consider the entire customer journey across all functions and all products.
We might as well say it now, anyone on your client-facing team who is having second thoughts about investing time in an all-out effort to improve customer experience — well, they should read about the research article in the sidebar. The new reality is staring everyone in the face: A great customer experience lays the foundation for increased revenues and lower operating costs.1
Who's on the front line?
Regardless of who's behind any financial product or service the real marketing question is who owns the customer experience? And in this business the answer is simple, your team — the people advising your clients. These are the folks on the front line of customer experience.
For many managers, it's the marketing blessing and curse — meaning, while it's great to have someone cultivating a customer relationship, how do you control it or manage it if you don't directly own it? The truth is, in our social media environment, nobody really owns the customer. There is so much financial information readily available that the customer owns the customer.
Acknowledge the customer service team's turf
By acknowledging the team's responsibilities, challenges and contributions you'll take the first step in creating a partnership that will allow you to improve the overall customer experience.
Educating and arming the sales team
Rather than dictate, offer. Rather than demand, engage.
Put traditional customer experience aside for a minute. This is about much more than traditional customer experience training. This is about providing simple, strategic principles that will ultimately create a new ecosystem for your customers.
Encourage feedback and use It
Too often marketers have a preconceived idea of how a customer relationship should work and what will improve it. They might call it intuition over fact. Whatever they call it, it can be a problem when it comes to effecting real change. The best defense is to start an open dialogue with the teams. Set up times to talk and encourage the exchange of ideas. And from experience, the less formal and the more relaxed the setting, the more productive it's bound to be.
The customer contract
If management is really committed to doing business in a new way and cultivating better customer relationships, then declare it. And nothing says commitment like putting it in writing. It doesn't have to be long-winded or involved. In fact, the simpler the principles the better.
It may not be easy but it is simple
This is our take on what might be the fundamentals of a revitalized and clearly defined customer experience.
First and foremost be easy to deal with, easy to understand and make certain that services are easy to interact with.
Look for a way to embed your products in people's lives. The audience needs to be able to quickly see how any financial product or service applies to them and their needs.
It's so simple but true — when customers come across a brand that actually pays attention, they're surprised. When they come across a sales team that actually advocates on their behalf, they're committed.
It's not just about what's happening now, it's about what's happening down the road.
The way today's financial services providers own and manage the customer ecosystem will do several things: allow them to continue to improve customer relationships. And in turn, allow them to impact their brand, internal relationships and revenue.